Gratitude as a Preparation for Rosh Hashanah

“Imagine that at the end of Yom Kippur of last year you received a note from Hashem saying that you are going to have a good year, you’d be overjoyed and full of thanks. Now that we are up to Elul and we look back at the year we had, we can see all the good Hashem has given us last Yom Kippur. So before asking for another great year, thank for the previous year!”

This is Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s (paraphrased) most important instruction for preparing for Rosh Hashanah.

This week’s Parshah instructs us this principle. When bringing Bikkurim there is the Mitzvah of Kriah of ארמי עובד אבי, in which we thank Hashem for everything going back to the beginning. The Kriah is the source for the Haggadah Shel Pesach and it starts with thanking Hashem for taking us out of Mitzrayim, choosing us as a nation, giving us Eretz Yisroel, and who made the crop of this year grow, of which the Bikkurim is its first fruits.

As we are preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the time that Hashem renews the world, we need to first acknowledge and thank for everything Hashem did for us from the beginning, both, as a nation and as individuals.

The root of הודאה – thanking, is the same root of being מודה – acknowledge and confess. Thanking should not be done in order to receive more good. Of course, שלא לשמה is better than not thanking at all, but when one thanks only so that they receive more, they are missing the deep Avodah of thanking.

When a parent gives a gift to a child and the child thanks the parent, it deepens and reveals their relationship. The giving and the thanking is even more important than the actual gift. The gift is limited to what it is, but the giving and thanking tells of a parent caring for a child and the child realizing that they owe their existence to the parent.

When we acknowledge the vast goodness that Hashem gives us, we bring out our recognition of our full dependence on Hashem and his unlimited desire to give to us. We realize that we are in full care of Hashem, and no other power, including ourselves, can do anything without Hashem.

This opens us up to the sweetness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There is nothing better and sweeter than throwing ourselves into the embrace of Hashem and realizing that the Creator of the world takes full care of us with his never-ending love.

In the annual agriculture cycle, this message is very clear. In the month of Tishrei, the houses and sheds were full of grains and food from the year’s yield, but the fields were barren. The field was empty and fully dependent on the rain and weather to further grow crop. As the house was full of food, a look out of the window made clear the sweet reality that we are fully dependent on Hashem.